The PBSL’s Sports Industry Interviews series sees us chat with experts from across the industry. They’ll be sharing their experiences of working in sport, advice on navigating the industry and what they think the future holds for their sector.

This week, we talk to RFL Chair Simon Johnson.


How did your career in sport get started?

I persuaded the law firm I was a Trainee with to make a pitch for some work from the Football League in 1991. We were successful, and that was the point that my work around the sports industry began.


What do you see as your career highlights whilst working in the sports industry?

Working on the England 2018 World Cup Bid was a highlight, even though we were unsuccessful. The feeling of the whole country being behind you was memorable.

Having the honour to be part of the Presentation Party at the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final will always be a privilege.

I always get a very special feeling of pride laying a wreath at the Cenotaph in memory of those from the Rugby League communities who gave their lives in the World wars.


What do you think are some of the upcoming challenges people working in the sports industry will have to face?

How to maintain the sustainability of your sports organisation whilst maintaining the values and purpose that lie at the core of what you do.


How is your organisation preparing for these challenges?

By adapting to the current crisis and challenging assumptions to ensure that we can emerge stronger. We have met as a Board often, have adapted our rules, restructured our cost base and reviewed our strategy and tactics to ensure that we are able to be nimble and adapt.


When it comes to staff welfare, what would you like to see implemented across the industry?

Easy and ready access to confidential support on welfare and wellbeing together with support through the challenges and changes that are resulting in people’s jobs being affected.


What advice would you give to anyone looking to reach a senior level within the industry?

Always try and do what you believe is right. Work hard, set a good example, operate with integrity and always be willing to explain and account for your actions and decisions.


How do you think you would have benefitted from having access to a service like the PBSL when you first started working in the sports industry and as your career progressed?

Having a source of advice, support and best practice from people in the industry would have been valuable.


Who has been the most influential person in developing your career in sport and why?

My first boss at ITV, Richard Eyre, gave me the confidence that I could go on to a career in senior roles. His gentle advice and encouragement was a great inspiration.


If you could change one thing in your career what would it be?

Everything happens for a reason. So I do not look back at what might have been, but rather look forward at what might be in future.


What’s your best sporting memory/event you’ve attended?  

England v Holland in Euro 96. The most perfect afternoon with an outstanding England performance before a large and exhilarated crowd.


What’s on your sporting bucket list?

Attending a Superbowl!